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Hogan v. Colvin

United States District Court, D. Oregon, Portland Division

April 30, 2014

LINDA LEE HOGAN, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

OPINION AND ORDER

PATRICIA SULLIVAN, Magistrate Judge.

Linda Lee Hogan ("plaintiff") seeks judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner") denying her application for Title II disability insurance benefits ("DIB") under the Social Security Act ("Act"). This Court has jurisdiction pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). All parties have consented to a Magistrate Judge in accordance with Fed.R.Civ.P. 73 and 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). For the reasons set forth below, the Commissioner's decision is affirmed and this case dismissed.

PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On June 17, 2010, plaintiff protectively applied for DIB. Tr. 4, 125-28. After the application was denied initially and upon reconsideration, plaintiff requested a hearing before an administrative law judge ("ALJ"). Tr. 4, 47-71, 100-17. On April 5, 2012, an ALJ hearing was held, at which plaintiff testified and was represented by counsel; a vocational expert ("VE") also testified. Tr. 4, 24-46. On August 20, 2012, the ALJ issued a decision finding plaintiff not disabled within the meaning of the Act. Tr. 4-15. After the Appeals Council denied review, plaintiff filed a complaint in this Court. Tr. 16-19.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

Born on February 24, 1952, plaintiff was 52 years old on the alleged onset date of disability and 54 years old on the date last insured. Tr. 125. Plaintiff graduated from high school and obtained vocational training in "key pouch and office." Tr. 151. She worked previously as an office manager, office clerk, and cashier. Tr. 41, 151. Plaintiff alleges disability beginning October 4, 2004, due to a traumatic injury, resulting in a "[f]used left ankle and curled left toes." Tr. 150.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

The court must affirm the Commissioner's decision if it is based on proper legal standards and the findings are supported by substantial evidence of record. Hammock v. Bowen, 879 F.2d 498, 501 (9th Cir. 1989). Substantial evidence is "more than a mere scintilla. It means such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971) (citation and internal quotations omitted). The court must weigh "both the evidence that supports and detracts from the [Commissioner's] conclusions." Martinez v. Heckler, 807 F.2d 771, 772 (9th Cir. 1986). Variable interpretations of the evidence are insignificant if the Commissioner's interpretation is rational. See Burch v. Barnhart, 400 F.3d 676, 679 (9th Cir. 2005).

The initial burden of proof rests upon the claimant to establish disability. Howard v. Heckler, 782 F.2d 1484, 1486 (9th Cir. 1986). To meet this burden, the claimant must demonstrate an "inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected... to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months." 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A).

The Commissioner has established a five-step sequential process for determining whether a person is disabled. Bowen v. Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 140 (1987); 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520. At step one, the Commissioner determines whether a claimant is engaged in "substantial gainful activity." Yuckert, 482 U.S. at 140; 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(b). If so, the claimant is not disabled.

At step two, the Commissioner evaluates whether the claimant has a "medically severe impairment or combination of impairments." Yuckert, 482 U.S. at 140-41; 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(c). If the claimant does not have a severe impairment, she is not disabled.

At step three, the Commissioner determines whether the claimant's impairments, either singly or in combination, meet or equal "one of a number of listed impairments that the [Commissioner] acknowledges are so severe as to preclude substantial gainful activity." Yuckert, 482 U.S. at 140-41; 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(d). If so, the claimant is presumptively disabled; if not, the Commissioner proceeds to step four. Yuckert, 482 U.S. at 141.

At step four, the Commissioner resolves whether the claimant has the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform "past relevant work." 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(e). If the claimant can work, she is not disabled; if she cannot perform past relevant work, the burden shifts to the Commissioner. At step five, the Commissioner must establish that the claimant can perform other work that exists in significant numbers in the national and local economy. Yuckert, 482 U.S. at ...


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